Straight and Narrow by Jimmie Chinn. Above the Stag. 4****. William Russell.

I was just about to write a review of this comedy which has not been seen in London for over 20 years when a notice was issued that the theatre is to close from 9 August. Above the Stag started in a room above the Stag pub in Victoria, moved to a railway arch in Vauxhall and most recently to one on the Albert Embankment. It has specialised in gay plays and musicals and has been a popular and successful fringe venue in all its homes. The latest, one has to say, does suffer from the trains running overhead. Directed by Mark Curry it had a good cast and, although it has flaws of construction, the play did deserve to run. Told in flashback by Bob (Lewis Allcock), a carpenter who runs a business with partner Jeff (Todd Van Joel) a plumber we discover they had gone to Malta on holiday where something happened which has thrown the relationship into turmoil. Meanwhile Bob’s family have come to visit led by matriarch from hell, his mother Vera (Carol Royale). It is all rather like the Royle Family and never quite achieves the insights into the relationship between this chalk and cheese couple Chinn was probably hoping to provide. But the production does deserve to be seen and, although this was my first visit to the Stag in its present location, I had visited it regularly in its other homes. One cannot go to everything and one of the casualties along the way for me was going to Above the Stag. The closure is indeed sad news as railway noises apart the venue was very attractive with a pleasant outside bar on the embankment. But times in the theatre everywhere are hard at the moment and hardest on the fringe where money is always tight.

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